As ATVS's main basketball guy, it's time for me to become useful again on this here blog. Here are 5 questions about this year's team that I figure need some examining.
1. Who's the team leader?
The Tigers have no seniors this year. There are four juniors, but only two of them are expected to start. Not one of these guys is a bona-fide star, and outside of Andrew Del Piero, who leads the SEC in height, it's doubtful that anybody here is going to lead the SEC in any of the individual stats. But no team is complete without some leadership, so somebody has to step up. Remember, it could be anybody, be it Storm Warren, Aaron Dotson, Garrett Green, a freshman, etc. Somebody just needs to stand up and say something to get people pumped.
My best guess is that LSU's team leader will be the player who joined Coach Johnson at SEC Basketball Media Days: Malcolm White. The junior transfer from Ole Miss will finally get to play after watching the wreckage from the bench last season. I bet he can't wait to help.
But still, it takes more than one guy to lead a team. Look at last year- Taz did all he could, but he couldn't do it alone. Look for Chris Bass and Eddie Ludwig to be more vocal this year.
2. Will Aaron Dotson emerge this year?
The Times-Pic's Jim Kleinpeter wrote an article last week hyping up a new and improved Aaron Dotson. It gives fans like me hope for the future, and a few explanations for Dotson's struggles last year...
Dotson spent all of last season rehabilitating his knee from the surgery which also wiped out his entire high school senior season. Under good conditions, Dotson's game is slashing and dashing through the defense and dunking it, not shooting it from the arc. And under good conditions, Trent would have gotten a chance to redshirt him last year instead of play him. But Trent had no choice, and running at half-speed, Dotson was forced to adjust his game. The results were utterly disastrous: Dotson made just seven 3-point shots out of 46 attempts. Shooting from a distance just isn't his game.
Now, perhaps, the fans will get to see the Aaron Dotson whom Louisville and Washington wanted: a fast, athletic lightning bolt that can zigzag through a defense and finish his move with an exciting slam. If he can do that, then LSU basketball will be a much more fun team to watch.
3. What can we expect from the freshmen?
Matt Derenbecker, Andre Stringer, Ralston Turner and Jalen Courtney carry the bulk of the future for LSU basketball. All of them, I'm guessing, will be four-year players here, and they'll be the cornerstone of the '12 season, the '13 season and the '14 season. But what about the '11 season?
Well, try to temper your expectations a little. None of them will be studs right away. Give them time.
Trent is making things easier for them by not making them learn multiple positions. As reported at Media Day, Matt Derenbecker will play small forward, Ralston Turner will man the SG spot, and Andre Stringer is a point guard. Jalen Courtney will join Matt at the three, but his transition appears to be a little more difficult than Matt's, and it's not yet known whether he'll play this year or take a redshirt year. But Jalen's high school coach called him "Bird", which is probably TOO promising, considering there's another guy named Bird who was one of the greatest small forwards the game has ever seen. If he can play like THAT guy, well... I'm getting carried away now.
Still, all four of these freshmen have plenty on their plate right now, and the usual slate of in-state patsies will be perfect opportunities for them to adjust, so sit back, relax, and enjoy their development.
4. Where do Dennis Harris and Eddie Ludwig fit in position-wise?
Dennis has been working on his jump shot and his ball-handling, because Johnson wants him to play some wing this year, along with his usual post duties. At wing, he'll create matchup problems galore. At 6-11, it won't be easy to defend him if he wants to shoot it. Expect Harris to be Storm's main reserve at the 4, and 15 minutes a game are not out of the question for him. However, Harris does have that extraordinarily lanky, injury-prone frame, so Trent Johnson will always have to use him gingerly.
Speaking of ginger, Eddie Ludwig (aka "Ed the Red", "Ludwig von Metarie") will play plenty of center next season as White's main reserve, and power forward as well. I expect to see this guy get around 20 minutes a game, logging minutes at both the 5 and the 4 because, as he showed in the last three games of this past season, he's got some impressive ball-handling skills for a big man, he brings a lot of energy, and he's definitely the kind of guy you want to see on the court more often than on the bench. If he can make the kind of improvement that Storm Warren made his sophomore year (which Trent expects to see), LSU will be a dangerous team.
5. Updated depth chart, plz?
Here's my stab at it:
C: Malcolm White, Eddie Ludwig, Garrett Green, Andrew Del Piero
PF: Storm Warren, Dennis Harris
SF: Matt Derenbecker, Jalen Courtney
SG: Aaron Dotson, Ralston Turner
PG: Andre Stringer, Chris Bass, Daron Populist
But remember, these things change all the time, and there's no doubt that we will see plenty of different starting rotations throughout the season.
I'm planning on attending the upcoming Purple and Gold scrimmage at the PMAC, and I'll get to see things a little closer.